A blog where Stephanie M. Belser test-drives her fictional stories.
Expect the occasional
"stall, spin, crash & burn".

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sam Hawkins vs. Lena Smirnova

Besides the obvious, writing the two characters has different challenges.

Sam is more of a traditional hard-boiled PI. He takes a job and he does it. He dishes out lumps and takes them as necessary. He's by no means a gorilla, but he keeps what's private out of the story that he is narrating. What you see is what he wants you to see. Essentially, his tale is a long version of his eventual report to his clients.

Lena's character is more complex, in part because she is not the narrator. You never see the narrator (like Chorus). Because Lena does not control the narration, you see a lot more of her life.

I read a lot of the old school detective novels when I was a teenager: Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ross MacDonald, John D. MacDonald and Mickey Spillane. Of the lot, it's a bit of a shame that Ross MacDonald's work seems to have drifted into obscurity the fastest, though some of them have been reissued in the last few years.

For me, Lena's character is harder to write because of the level of detail and complexity of her life. She has a large multi-generational extended family (I maintain a growing genealogical chart), she does other things besides detective work, and, in the one that I am now working on, she has a love life (such as it is). She is involved in her community. Because Lena lives in a fictional American state, I have had to create maps as I go and imagine a bit of history.

Though, in true hard-boiled tradition, both Lena and Sam are somewhat alike. They are both comfortable in their own skins and in being on their own.

The two characters will meet eventually.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Project the Next^2

I am also working on another Sam Hawkins story. This one does not have a working title.

Chapter 1

I was hired to do a background check on a possible candidate for a political-appointee job.  They’re not terribly unusual in this area. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t bother to ask why.  If the person hiring me has a good reason for hiring me to investigate someone, asking why will often result in my learning a lot more than I care to know.  I’m not a shrink, I don’t get paid for listening to other people’s problems.  If someone has a not-too-good reason for wanting to hire me, they’ll just lie about it.

Sometimes I know they’re lying, sometimes I don’t.  I check to see if there is a restraining order out with the person I’m supposed to check’s name on it.  I’ll check to see if the person is a witness in the kind of cases where witnesses couldn’t afford to buy life insurance.  But mostly, I’ll check to make sure that the checks that I’m given don’t bounce.

My name is Sam Hawkins.  I’m a private detective.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Project the Next

While Aluminum Rain is offline for a few hours (Amazon's processing a corrected copy), this is the first chapter in the next work.
Chapter 1

Lena Smirnova didn’t wake up in a cold sweat during the night. That was a good thing.  The counselor that she saw had mentioned something about her suffering from “post traumatic stress”.  She had thought that the word “disorder” was part of it, but he had explained that for a lot of things that people had experienced, post traumatic stress was a normal reaction. They were more worried about the people who didn’t have a reaction to it than those that did. Or so they told her.

Aluminum Rain and Apple Pie

Aluminum Rain is now available for purchase in the Amazon Kindle store. It's only a buck, less than a cup of coffee from almost anywhere (except here).

If you're a fan of the TV show Justified, you probably remember Mags Bennett and her apple pie moonshine. I had a taste of that last night, but not the stuff that Mags poisoned. It did indeed taste like apple pie and it was about the smoothest booze that I've ever had. I could see where someone could put away several shots of it and end up being drunk on their ass without knowing what hit them.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Gloria Barfed on the Subway

I forgot to mention that Blood on the Snow made a brief appearance on the Amazon best-seller's list. I didn't think of capturing a screen-shot until it was almost too late.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Wuffo Aluminum Rain?

As you may have noticed, I have taken down most of Aluminum Rain.

First, that's the title that I've chosen.

Second, what I had posted was the first draft. The story has changed a bit since then. I've revised it a few times and now I have it out to some "beta readers".

After they've read it, I'll offer it for sale in the Kindle store for a buck. I think that's a fair price for a novella of about 22,000 words. It's almost a "flash fiction" novella, as the first draft took a little over two weeks to write.

I have to take another look at the draft of Blood on the Range, as there is something about it that just doesn't feel right.

(And I have to gear up for court today.)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Aluminum Rain, Pt. II

My client was an elderly gent named James Bell.  He was related to Alexander Graham Bell, his father had been either a cousin or grand-nephew of the inventor.  James Bell was wealthy, not just rich.  He had money managers who looked after his investments.  This Bell was a patron of the musical arts and, in his youth, had been both a musician of some note and had helped jazz cross over into a higher level of society.  More to my concern, he was a great-uncle of Loftus.  I went to see him the day after I talked to Dr. Durden.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Aluminum Rain; Sam Hawkins Returns

I am working on a new Sam Hawkins story.  This one will be set around 1992.  I don't know if it'll work out to be a novel, a novella, or a short, but here is the first chapter:

It didn’t look like much of an airplane, just bits of twisted and blackened metal.  The fragments had been laid out inside the outline of an airplane.  There probably had been an odor at one time, but the wreckage was old enough for any smell to have faded away.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The People

A flash-fiction challenge. I hit #13.

    Christa followed the crumbling black path into town.  That’s not entirely correct, for she guided her horse to the side of the path.  The hard surface of the path itself was hard on the hooves of horses and the feet of other animals.  The path she rode on was worn.  Occasionally, the path crossed other had paths that were either black or grayish.  Some of them were very wide.  She saw a large herd of bison a thousand or so paces to her right.  One rider wasn’t a threat to them. Both she and the bison ignored each other.  Between her and the herd stood a large rusting machine.  She didn’t know what it was.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Riddle Me This

How can the Hidden Witness, which has sold over a hundred copies, have a lower Kindle Rank (by almost a factor of five) over Blood on the Snow?

The only thing I can think of is that I revised the older book and then put that up, rather than just replace what was there before. So maybe Amazon doesn't count the earlier ones?

More mysteries to ponder.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Amazon: With Success Comes a Pain in the Ass

When I first uploaded the Hidden Witness to Kindle, Amazon was happy to accept it in almost any format.

Not any more. They've gotten a lot pickier. MS-Word, thankyewveddymuch, and there are a number of formatting "guidelines".

That'd be OK, I guess, if I wrote using Word. But I don't. So I have to spend a few hours reformatting and shit like that there.

Yeah, I know: First World Problems.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

And Baby Makes Three

The first draft is done!

I like having a printed copy to read and mark up.

With sporadic royalty payments from Amazon, I've maybe made fifty bucks so far on the first book.

I finished the second book, "Blood on the Snow" almost two years ago. I pick up the printed manuscript from time to time; I keep finding typos, bad punctuation and things that need revising. And that was after re-doing the last 10-15% of the first draft.

All of which pretty much means that I can write, I guess, but I can't market for shit.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Blood on the Range- Chapter 2

Lena woke up the next morning to nineteen pounds of purring cat lying on her torso. When she opened her eyes, Bucko’s face was about two inches from her’s. “Off”, she said as she pushed him over.

Bucko jumped down to the floor and stalked out of the room as he said: “Owp. Owp. Owp.” Translated, that meant: “Feed me now.” Lena swung her legs over the edge of the bed, found her slippers and robe, and went downstairs. She started her one-cup coffee-maker brewing before she opened a can of food for the cat. Priorities. For herself, Lena had some nukeable oatmeal with a bit of maple syrup dribbled over it. She had a contact in Vermont who sent her a half-gallon each year, fresh from a sugar house. After she had first tasted it, she swore to thrash the next person who offered her that crappy “maple-flavored” syrup.

After scooping out the cat’s litter box and getting dressed, Lena drove directly to her office. It hadn’t snowed in a few days; the snow alongside the roads was beginning to take on a brownish-black tinge from both road sand and oil leaks. Other than the local airport, there was nothing out her road other than large plots of land with nondescript houses. Some of the properties were working farms, right up until she got almost to downtown Petersburg. Some of the properties were hobby ranches, most had at least one barn that might or might not hold a few horses. More did before the big recession hit.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Blood on the Range

A draft of the first chapter of a work in progress:

Chapter 1

Lena Smirnova went out for lunch that day. She was jonesing for nice greasy burger, which meant a drive to Skipper’s Grill. The general opinion was that Skipper’s Grill was the equivalent of a vampire building. During the day, it was a terrific place for hamburgers, steaks and catfish. At night, it transformed itself into a notorious bucket-o’-blood. More than one sheriff had stationed a cruiser on the other side of the road to try and tamp things down, with little success.

The interior of Skipper’s was pretty dingy at night, or so Lena had been told. She wouldn’t have gone in there in the evening without being accompanied by a Marine reinforced rifle platoon. During the day, however, the interior was brightly lit and almost cheerful. The owners recognized the schizophrenic nature of their customer base, in that the daylight customers were different from the night-time customers. The changeover between the two was almost as well-defined as the shift change in a factory.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Dream Weaver

A flash-fiction challenge.

The businessman walked into the office to see the man there. It was a nondescript office building in Manhattan. Both the building and the neighborhood had seen better days. It was the sort of building in which one would have found a `40s hard-boiled PI’s office. Judging by the very expensive suit he was wearing, one wouldn’t expect the businessman to have been caught dead in that building.

The man he was seeing looked similarly nondescript. Oh, he was dressed well enough, but he was instantly forgettable. He waved the businessman to a seat. “What can I do for you?”

“I have heard that you can arrange for people to do things that they may not have been inclined to do,” the businessman ventured.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Don't Cheat J-Hod

(Flash Fiction)

Jayerdene wasn’t judgmental. She couldn’t be, not in her town. It was on the edge of the largest spaceport in the sector. She was a trader and good at it. If you needed to outfit a wedding party or a raiding party, you went to Jaye’s House of Deals, known as “J-Hod” throughout most of known space. Only two things you couldn’t buy from (or sell to) her: Nuclear weapons and sentient species. Anything else, all you needed was either something to trade or about three different forms of specie. She didn’t care who you were or where you were from.

J-Hod had four rules. The other two were “no counterfeits” and “no stealing”. The rules were established by Jayelene, Jayerdene’s great-grandmother, the first “Jaye”. She founded J-Hod, you know. Oh, she bought and sold counterfeit goods.  It didn’t matter to her if it was a Cygnean knock-off of a Green Gyrene fusion fuel pump or the genuine article. She sold knock-offs, but she told you that’s what you were getting. And if you tried to sell her a knock-off and passed it off as genuine, she’d ban you from the store. If you succeeded in selling her a knock-off and Jaye (any of the generations of Jaye) found out about it, you were in serious trouble.